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April 22, 2011

Tuesday morning I woke up feeling something I hadn't since childhood - rested, refreshed and renewed.

This was because on Monday night I did something I hadn't done since childhood?-?I went to bed early.

I stretched luxuriously, petted Pippi the Cat a couple of times, and hopped out of bed, ready to greet the day. OK, so I didn't hop out of bed - it was more like I crept out of bed. But it was a sprightly creeping, if I must say so myself.

On my way downstairs I decided to try a little sympathetic magic, whistling "Here Comes the Sun." It didn't work of course, what with our usual middle-level overcast doing its thing. But no matter, nothing could dampen my spirits.

After feeding the critters, I hammered my first java du jour and just sat there, feeling my heart thump and my spirits soar.

Then, floating on a magic carpet of caffeine and non-Christian charity, I took the dogs out for their morning stroll. On the way back, I saw two things on my car that made both my magic carpet and lofty spirits crash and burn.

One was the lid that covers my gas cap?- it was open.

The other was the gas cap itself it wasn't there.

Over the years I've lost lots of gas caps, and when I say lots, I mean lots. Maybe not 20, but certainly more than 10. But it was never a big deal because I did it when I owned old VW Beetles. If (or more precisely, when) I lost a gas cap, I'd just tool over to my genius mechanic Vern Friend, at his vehicular redoubt in Tupper.

Vern had more VW gas caps than Imelda Marcos had shoes. All I had to do was tell him I'd lost one and suddenly, somehow, he'd reach into one the surrounding piles of tires, fenders, engines, air filters, hub caps, transmission cases and every tool known to man (and a few unknown to man), and as if by magic, would pluck out its replacement.


The search

But it's a whole different game with my new car, since there's no way I can just pop in on a nearby '97 Honda Accord graveyard.

Maybe that's why I'd never lost its cap till this week. Not that it was any consolation, as I stared numbly and glumly at the open lid and uncovered intake pipe.

But all was not lost: I'd gotten gas the previous night at Wilson Farms and afterwards had gone only to the Grand Union and Rite Aid, so I knew exactly what route to follow. Plus, it was only 7 a.m. and there wouldn't be much traffic in town for a while. So while time was of the essence, in this instance it was also on my side.

I was buoyantly optimistic when I pulled into Wilson Farms, but after scouring the place and finding out from the clerk that no one handed in a gas cap, I became aware of how bad the odds were of finding it. I also became aware of something else - how I looked.

I'd left home without bothering to change out of my house outfit, which might be labeled, "Moth-Eaten Chic." I had on my baggy, besmirched sweatpants; my slippers (which Little Lulu "tailored" by chewing off the back of one and the side of the other), my sweater that has more holes than wool, and my watch cap that looks like it doubles as a dishrag.

None of that matters when I'm home, since no one ever sees me in it, including the various religious fanatics, who, I'm proud to say, have finally given up on pulling in my driveway, much less actually knocking on my door. But I'd never wear that stuff in public.

Being preoccupied with finding the gas cap, I didn't think about anyone's reactions till I suddenly noticed a woman at the pumps staring at me. I gave her one of my best winning smiles and wished her a hearty good day to which she responded by reaching in her purse - for what I figured was either her cell phone or pepper spray. Deciding not to wait around to find out, I got back in my car and resumed my search.

I went through town at a snail's pace, retracing the entire previous night's route, but saw no gas caps, so I returned home and got ready for school. Just as I started out the door, the phone rang.


Last (and lost) hope

It was the Amazon Queen and in the middle of me sobbing out my tale of woe, she interrupted.

"Last night I saw a gas cap in front of the hotel," she said.

"You're kidding?" I said. "I looked there, but didn't see one."

"Well, there was one," she said. "In the street, close to the hotel curb."

I needed to hear no more. In an instant I was out the door, in the car, and tearing off downtown. I pulled over in front of the hotel and checked the street, and sure enough, there was my gas cap. The reason I hadn't recognized it was because it wasn't in its previous condition. The night before it was all in one piece; now it looked like it'd been run over by a fleet of Humvees.

I had no time to reflect on that, however - I had to take off for school, to enlighten America's Future ... or at least put up a valiant effort to do so.

During my break between classes, I called NAPA to see if they had a gas cap for my model in stock, and lo and behold, they did. Oh frabjous day, callooh callay!

When I got to NAPA, and the clerk handed me the cap, he said, "You've lost them before?"

"Yeah," I said. "But not in about 10 years."

"Well," he said, "the good news is this one'll last at least another 10 years."

"No doubt," I said. "But I'm worried about the bad news."

"Oh?" he said. "What is it?" "Whether or not I'll last 10 another years."



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